Ground Report | New Delhi: Gujarat HC; The Gujarat High Court on Thursday stayed the implementation of certain sections of the state’s new anti-conversion law relating to inter-religious marriages. A division bench of Chief Justice Vikram Nath and Justice Biren Vaishnav said that the interim order has been passed to save people from unnecessary trouble.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) government of the state has not yet made any specific comment on the order of the High Court. Legal experts and social activists welcomed the interim stay, saying “the entire law is against the spirit of the Constitution” and citizens have the freedom to choose their religion.
Chief Justice Nath said, “We are of the opinion that, pending further hearing, sections three, four, four (a) to sections four (c), five, six and six (a) shall not be invoked.” If a person of one religion marries with a person of another religion without the use of force, without giving any inducement or using fraudulent means, such marriages cannot be termed as marriages performed for the purpose of illegal conversion.’ (Gujarat HC)
“This interim order has been issued to avoid unnecessary trouble to the parties involved in inter-religious marriage,” he said. The effective meaning of the prohibition of these sections is that an FIR cannot be registered under this law on the ground of inter-religious marriage.
State Advocate General Kamal Trivedi sought an explanation and said what would happen if the marriage resulted in forced conversion, Chief Justice Nath said, “There must be a basic element of coercion or inducement or deceit.” Without this you will not (proceed) ahead, that’s all we have said in the order.
Trivedi had told the court on August 17 that the law does not ban “inter-religious marriage”, but the division bench said that the language of the amended law is not clear, as a result, the sword will always hang over those who perform inter-religious marriages.
Gujarat Deputy Chief Minister Nitin Patel said that the government will take its next step after the court’s full order is received. “I am not aware of the comments of the Hon’ble High Court on the Love Jihad Act. Whatever the remarks, it is natural that our Advocate General and other public prosecutors will apprise the Chief Minister, Home Minister and the Legal Department. What action the government will take will be decided once we have complete information about the comments.
Section 3 of the state’s new law defines what constitutes ‘forced conversion’. It states, ‘Any person converts or converts any person from one religion to another religion by force or by inducement or by any fraudulent means or by marriage or by getting any person married or by aiding in the marriage of any person. nor will any person encourage such conversion.’
The BJP government had passed the Gujarat Religious Freedom (Amendment) Bill in the Assembly during the budget session earlier this year and Governor Acharya Devvrat gave his assent to it on May 22. The Gujarat branch of Jamiat Ulema-e-Hind had filed a petition against the law last month. The Gujarat government had amended the 2003 law through this new bill, in which there is a provision of punishment for converting religion by force or inducement.
According to the amendment, forced conversion by marriage or by getting someone married or by helping in marriage is punishable with imprisonment for a term which may extend to three to five years and with fine which may extend to two lakh rupees.